Lion of Babylon tank


Lion of Babylon tank

Infobox Weapon
is_vehicle=yes
name=T-72 Lion of Babylon


caption=A dug-in "Asad Babil" captured after the Battle of 73 Easting, February 1991
type=Main battle tank
origin= flagicon|Iraq Iraq
production_date=1989-1990
service=1990 - Present
wars=Gulf War, 2003 invasion of Iraq
length=6.9 m
width=3.6 m
height=2.2 m
weight=41.5 tonnes
suspension=Torsion bar
Number of dampers intentionally reduced to suit desert conditions
speed=68 km/h (road)
50 km/h (off-road)
vehicle_range=450 km, with barrels 600 km
primary_armament=125 mm 2A46M smoothbore
secondary_armament=PKMT 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun, NSVT or DShK 12.7 mm AA machine gun on commander's ring-mount
armour=300 mm conventional cast (as basic T-72M model)
Spaced armor reinforcement welded to front hull and turret
Electro-optical interference pods
engine=V-46-6 - 12-cyl. diesel
engine_power=780 hp (582 kW)
crew=3 (commander, driver and gunner)
engine_power= 780 hp (580 kW)
pw_ratio= 19.8 hp/tonne

The Lion of Babylon tank or "Asad Babil" (Arabic: اسد بابل) was an Iraqi-built version of the Soviet T-72 MBT (main battle tank), assembled in a factory established in the 1980s near Taji, north of Baghdad.

This project represented the most ambitious attempt by Saddam Hussein's Regime to develop an indigenous tank production, triggered in part when some Western governments imposed an embargo in order to force a negotiated end to the Iran-Iraq war.

Production History

A steel plant was in place in Taji since 1986, built by a West German company, manufacturing steel for several military uses and meeting the standards to retrofit and rebuild tanks already on duty in the Iraqi Army, such as the T-54/55 family and the T-62. But the first locally-built T-72 came off the production line in early 1989, after a license agreement was achieved with a Polish contractor to provide essential parts for assembly. [According to Russian sources, an informal agreement was already in place between the Iraqi government and the Polish company as early as 1982. The deal comprised the assembling of 250 T-72Ms from imported hulls, in order to waive the embargo. However, the process actually consisted of a kit-to-build model rather than a true production line. The first assembling site seems to have been located at Najaf. By September 1982, the Soviet Union started to provide under the Polish covert other T-72 components to upgrade the Iraqi MBTs. The Baath regime also had bought a handful of very basic T-72 models from the USSR during the last year president Bakr was in power (1979), the only tanks of this type imported outright by the Iraqis. About 60 T-72s were lost in the war with Iran. By the time of the beginning of the production in Taji’s factory, several hundred T-72s were in active service in the Iraqi Army.

Nevertheless, the generic name of "Asad Babil" is used for every Iraqi T-72, since all of them were upgraded to T-72M1A standards (in the case of the few of basic model) or (in the case of the assembled from Polish hulls) refurbished and modified in the Taji complex. From [http://btvt.narod.ru/2/iraqarmy2.htm/prof# btvt.narod.ru] ] The United Nations imposed an arms embargo following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, which soon limited the complex activity to the production of spare parts for the Lions and other tanks in the Iraqi arsenal. [ [http://www.kentimmerman.com/news/tdl16.htm#prof Kentimmerman.com] ]

In most aspects, the Lion of Babylon is physically identical to the basic T-72M. [Basic features from Zaloga & Sarson: "T-72"...] However, the two differ considerably, both in the quality of construction and durability of materials used. The Iraqi tank was upgraded to T-72M1A features with the addition of armor at the front and rear as protection against missile attacks ("see Russian link in the " Armor "section"). [This fact according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), cited by [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/ground-equipment-intro.htm#prof www.globalsecurity.org]
*Quote:"The Russian T-72M1 Main Battle Tank (MBT) had been modified with additional armor in the front and rear to protect against High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) projectiles. This locally modified and locally named "Lion of Babylon" T-72 tank has some Iraqi technology."
] [ [http://www.jedsite.info/tanks-tango/tango-numbers-su/t-72_series/asad-babyl/asadbabyl-intro.html#prof JED website] ]

A few examples featured a laser rangefinder for its 125 mm smoothbore main gun. American military intelligence believed some of them also featured Belgium-made thermal sights. [Atkinson, p.443] These same sources claim the tank was also provided with a better track protection against sand and mud than the Soviet T-72, by reducing the original number of dampers. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/ground-equipment-intro.htm#prof GlobalSecurity.org] ] [ [http://www.jedsite.info/tanks-tango/tango-numbers-su/t-72_series/saddam/saddam-intro.html#prof JED website] ] Some of them carried a crude detachable pipe device made by the Iraqis in order to use the exhausts to blow up sand or dust to dig-in the tank. [ [http://www.halo5.net/albums/album42/aai.sized.jpg#prof www.halo5.net] ] It's widely known that the tank had some kind of electro-optical interference pods of Chinese origin. [Zaloga & Sarson, "T-72..." p.22] [ [http://www.flickr.com/photos/94141189@N00/1318179407/in/photostream#prof A full equipped "Asad Babil" on display at Fort Hood 1º Cavalry Division Museum] ] As secondary armament, the tank mounted either the NSV or the DShK 12.7 mm machinegun and the coaxial 7.62 mm PKT common to all models of T-72.

Combat Performance

The "Asad Babil" was generally credited as being the most common tank in Iraqi service during the Gulf War (1990-91), but that honor goes, in fact, to the Type 69, produced in China but widely refitted by the Iraqis. Only Republican Guard divisions were equipped with Iraqi-built T-72s.

Much to the distress of Soviet armaments designers, many of the failings of the Iraqi armies were blamed upon the original T-72, with little note that the vehicle itself was an Iraqi copy of an older export model, and nowhere near its up-to-date Soviet counterpart in capability.

Even in the hands of competent crewmen, the Lion of Babylon is utterly outclassed by the M1 Abrams and by any other contemporary Western main battle tank, as was demonstrated in both Gulf Wars. For example, a 120 mm depleted uranium (DU) APFSDS round from an M1 could kill an "Asad Babil" tank well beyond 3,000 m, while the effective range of a tungsten-core 125 mm shell is scarcely 1,800 m. The only chance for the "Asad Babil" against American tanks was to lure them to close range combat, or trying to ambush them from dug-in positions. But even in those conditions, the M1s usually prevailed, as proven in circumstances like the Battle of 73 Easting, during Desert Storm, where dozens of Iraqi MBTs were obliterated, or near Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, April 3, 2003, (Iraqi Freedom) when US tanks engaged their counterparts from just 50 yards, shattering seven enemy T-72s without losses. [Conroy & Mars, p. 158] These encounters also exposed the very poor marksmanship of the Iraqi gunners, in part due to the shortage of modern night-vision and range-finder assets, as noted in the Production History section.

Indeed, barely a dozen US vehicles were destroyed or put out of action by Iraqi tanks of any kind in the course of both 1991 war and 2003's invasion. Four of those vehicles were wheeled trucks.

Desert Storm (1991)

The ground war began on Feb 24, 1991, and lasted until Feb 27, when President George H. W. Bush declared a unilateral cease-fire, after the last Iraqi Army units were forced out from Kuwait. The "Asad Babil" saw action mostly with the Republican Guard Armored Division "Tawakalna" (Arabic: God with us), on the third day of operations. [The existence of Type-69 tanks featuring 125 mm smoothbore guns (yet another Iraqi innovation) led to conflicting reports about clashes with T-72s on February 25. The source of these reports came from the USMC’s battle assessments.] The Division was decimated by the simultaneous assault of several American armored Task Forces.

Against the M1 Abrams

At first, combat assessment researchers thought that about a dozen M1s were hit and damaged in some degree in the course of tank battles with Iraqi T-72s in 1991, but further ballistics information and radiological readings showed that six Abrams were beyond any doubt hit by . Helicopter-launched missiles are suspected of inflicting friendly damage in another four cases.

As already mentioned, the T-72s built in Taji were technologically fifteen or more years out of date, so they could not face the latest generation of US MBTs without sustaining heavy losses. However, some sources dispute the claim that no M1A1 Abrams took damage from this Iraqi tank. Brig. Gen. Robert Scales describes an engagement at close range between advancing M1s and dug-in Lions where at least two American tanks (B-23 and D-24) were knocked out, apparently by 125 mm sabot rounds. [Scales, pp. 269-270]

The battle took place before midnight, February 26, 1991, against a brigade of "Tawakalna" Division. The Abrams tanks belonged to TF 1-37th Armor, US 1st Armored Division, and both were struck from behind. Two more became the targets of anti-tank missiles, depicted in the ballistics report as "small shaped charge munition" ( in the other (C-12). There was speculation about incoming friendly-fire from Apache helicopters of the US 3rd Armored Division deployed to the south,George Forty cites an ] An official document (), shows a drawing describing the projectile path right through the tank hull, defeating the armor on both sides, a kind of harm that only a large kinetic energy penetrator could make (the Hellfire missile fired from the Apaches has a HEAT (high explosive anti-tank) warhead). Had a Hellfire hit the tank, the path depicted would have shown a sharp downward angle.

This is the summary () detailing Abrams B-23's damage. Note that this text mentions "two" rounds hitting the Abrams, the first of them (a shaped charge weapon) being probably an AGM-114 Hellfire missile blast through the rear grill doors, while the second unknown round is almost certainly that depicted in the ballistic's sketch, likely from an "Asad Babil" gun. The damage taken from this second hit, as is described in this report, was catastrophic. In effect, other sources hint that, besides C-12, at least another tank was penetrated by APFSDS shells.

A Delta company Abrams (D-24) was also hit by a HEAT round from an "Asad Babil" in the same skirmish, according to the tank commander, First Sergeant (1SG) Anthony Steede. [Scales, pp. 213-215, from an interview with Steede.] Indeed, the also support the T-72's hypothesis. [ [http://www.1-37armor.net/pubs/dragonsroar.pdf#prof Online account of the battle, with confirmed photos of "Abrams" B-23 before recovery and Iraqi armor destroyed during the engagement (PDF format)] ]

Another US Army official damage assessment (), asserts that an unidentified Abrams suffered three non-DU impacts. Witnesses in the field claimed a T-72 was responsible. One round hit the front left turret slope with only minor damage; the two others achieved partial penetrations on the rear right side of the turret. This is the only officially documented instance of an Iraqi MBT knocking out an M1A. [Another reference to an M1A hit in a similar way by a T-72 can be found in a General accounting office's report about the Bradleys and Abrams performance in the Gulf War:
*" [http://call.army.mil#pro CALL] cites one incident in which an Abrams was reportedly struck twice by a T-72 tank firing from 2,000 meters. CALL reported that the crew involved in the incident stated that one projectile had bounced off the tank and the other had embedded itself in the armor".
] Even if the US tank was not destroyed, the damage was enough to send it to a maintenance depot. The report about two hits in the rear turret suggests that the duffle bags in the tank's sponson boxes were presumably set on fire. [This kind of mishaps proved that the external storage of the M1As Abrams are highly vulnerable to enemy fire, capable of igniting packaged items dripping down to the engine compartment, as also happened in at least one case during the 2003 invasion when the turret was hit by heavy machine gun rounds [http://www.fprado.com/armorsite/US-Field-Manuals/abrams-oif.pdf#prof PDF] (See 1-64 AR, B-24 tank)] Another six M1As were allegedly hit by 125 mm tank fire in the Gulf war official report, but the impacts were largely ineffectual. [Fahey, Dan: Collateral Damage..."During the ground war, only seven M1A1's were hit by rounds fired from the Iraqi's T-72 tanks, with none being seriously damaged." See also: George F. Hofmann & Donn A. Starry, pag.9]

More specific details exist about another Abrams storage area catching fire from a burning T-72 as a result of combat operations in the "Chronology of the XVIII Airborne Corps in Gulf War". [ [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/CHRONOS/mar91.htm#prof www.army.mil] ] Its bumper number was A-22, from TF 4-64. [See talk page of the Abrams tank article, "Tanks disabled" discussion] The damage was sustained during the last engagement of the Gulf War, March 2 1991, near the Rumeilah oil fields, southwest of Basra, when the 1st Brigade of the US 24th Infantry Division attacked by surprise a large retreating column of the "Hammurabi" elite Division, comprising some "Asad Babil" and APCs, which apparently broke the cease-fire. Most of the Brigade-size formation was demolished by the combined force of helicopters, A-10 attack aircraft and armored vehicle weapons.

Against the M2 Bradley

According to Atkinson and Scales, the Lions also accounted for at least three M2 Bradley IFVs during Desert Storm and left several damaged, all of them on February 26, 1991.

The Bradleys were often deployed as advanced scouts for the main armored forces. They explored the enemy lines, having been greeted by the Iraqi tank's main guns in many occasions. In return, if located within striking distance, they retaliated by firing their BGM-71 TOW antitank missiles with deadly effects, taking out even several MBTs. Most of the M2 losses were the result of this kind of mission.

Brigadier General Scales states that on the mentioned date, an M2 Bradley (ID number unknown), leading the TF 3-5th Cavalry scout platoon and commanded by a First Lieutenant Donald Murray, took a T-72 sabot round through the road wheels. This action led to the first officially reported killing of a Lion in the Division, by First Lieutenant Marty Lener's tank. [Scales, p. 273. The TF was part of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Armored Division. The report was retrieved from: "History of the Ready First Combat Team, 1st brigade, 3d Armored Division, November 1990 through 22 March 1991."]

Atkinson cites a mostly fratricidal battle near "Phase Line Bullet", a preestablished objective in the 3rd Armored Division way towards northern Kuwait, west of Al-Busayyah. [Atkinson, pp. 428 to 433] The close-range skirmish involved Bradleys from the 4th Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment against Iraqi dismounted infantry, APCs, and T-72s of "Tawakalna" Division. Visibility conditions were extremely poor (less than 400 yards), due to a sandstorm combined with the fumes of burning oil wells. The Iraqis employed small arms, RPG-7s, AT-3 Sagger missiles (completely aimless in such bad weather), and direct and indirect tank and 73 mm cannon fire from their entrenched positions.

One of the American IFVs (A-36) was hit and crippled by what ballistics suggest was a 12.7 mm bullet from an Iraqi tank [From the round splinter, [Bin, Hill and Jones, page 195. Quote from SGT Jones, A-36 commander:
* "The weather was bad, and I couldn't see anything without the thermal sights. Just as I started to drop back into the hatch, I saw some sparks and dirt fly off the front of my vehicle-I knew we were being shot at. I told the driver to back up. He put it in gear, but all the transmission did was to whine."
] since the M2A2 armor is able to defeat any machine gun fire up to 14.5 mm) and then shattered by a HEAT 125 mm shell after the crew evacuated the vehicle. [] Bradley A-35 also took some damage from a mix of ricocheting 12.7 mm bursts and main gun rounds near-misses, but was able to be driven out. []

Another three vehicles were put out of action by M1A sabot friendly fire (A-22, A-24 and A-31). Two other ones took some damage from T-72 main and secondary armament: A-33 was hit by a ricocheting 12.7 mm bullet which disabled the radio and wounded the commander, while A-26 was struck by fragments of a 125 mm round during the process of recovery wounded personnel from A-24. [Atkinson, pp. 431-432] [A complementary report from Atkinson with some of this details also found at "Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: An Interim report to the Congress" (1991).
*Quote: "The round landed 10 meters short, spraying dirt and shrapnel against Sneed's Bradley and blowing him to the ground."
]

The rest of the 14 IFVs platoon, all of them damaged by shrapnel and machine gun fire, was forced to withdraw. This is the only known action in which an Iraqi armored force led by T-72s Lions beat off a US ground assault in both Iraqi wars.

There is also another US Army reference to a third Bradley (K12), belonging to 3rd squadron, 2nd ACR (US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment), hit by both kinetic energy and HEAT rounds and totally destroyed. [See the following ] This incident happened in the course of the scattered skirmishes that preceded the battle of 73 Easting, when a small Iraqi mechanized force (possibly a mix of 12th Armored Division and "Tawakalna" units) attacked, during a probing action, the ressuply area of the Regiment, between Al-Bussayyah and Wadi-al-Batin, around 2:00 AM. The night time incursion and the bad weather implies that the tank or tanks that attacked K-12 have infrared thermal sights, so the T-72 was the most likely killer. A second Bradley and two M-113s were also damaged, all of them to friendly fire. Several MT-LBs troop carriers and one unidentified tank belonging to the retreating enemy were reported as destroyed by US forces. [George F. Hofmann & Donn A. Starry, pag. 513. A [http://www.qrmapps.com/gw1/day3.htm#prof first hand account] didn't mention any Iraqi tank disabled:
*Quote:"During the night, 210th Field Artillery Brigade had launched artillery raids against 12th Armored Division’s 50th Armored Brigade. The artillery had positioned its MLRS battery behind 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cav’s tank company to launch 20 rockets at a massed formation of armor from the enemy division’s 50th Armored Brigade. This was followed by a second successful raid. Around 2 a.m., an Iraqi mechanized battalion had tried to silence the MLRS, instead running into 3rd Squadron’s M and K Troops. Visibility was poor as the units engaged. The tank company destroyed about a dozen MT-LB troop carriers."
]

Invasion of Iraq (2003)

During the invasion of Iraq, the Republican Guard's Lions, most of them from "Medina" Division, were deployed around Baghdad to attempt a last ditch defense of the Baath regime.Since the beginning of the war, the bulk of the resistance had been conducted by regular army units, equipped with Type 69s and T-62s. In the process of the final run to the Iraqi capital, another M2 was struck by a 125 mm shell near Baghdad Airport in early April 2003, caught in the open while on a reconnaissance mission. [Quote: "First Lieutenant Milosovich moved a Bradley onto the bridge to scan for tanks. As soon as the Bradley reached the top of the overpass a main gun round from a T-72 slammed into the side of the unsuspecting Bradley from behind the large wall to the south. Strapped to the outside of the Bradley, the rucksacks exploded on impact, sending burning boots, t-shirts, and TA-50 into the air." From:
* [http://www.phoenix158.org/iraq/AAR%20draft%20from%202-7%20INF%203D%20ID.cfm#prof Draft of TF 2-7 Actions as compiled by Art Durante/OF Iraqi Freedom History Team]
] Other sources claim the Bradley was destroyed by an Iraqi modified Type 69 fitted with a single 57 mm gun, [Quote: (The Bradley) "was penetrated in the troop compartment by what the troops were saying was a T-72, but based on the ballistics and what we think actually hit it was probably an anti-aircraft round". From:
* [http://www.wlhoward.com/id554.htm#prof WLHoward.com]
* [http://www.jedsite.info/tanks-tango/tango-numbers-su/t-55_series/iq-aa-s60/iqaas60.html#prof www.jedsite.info/Brief description and photo of this Iraqi tank]
] but the high rate of fire of this antiaircraft weapon (70 rpm) makes this hypothesis unlikely, since there were just two rounds fired, one against the Bradley and a previous near-miss aimed at a Fox NBC vehicle. [ [http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m93a1.htm#prof fas.org] ]

This action took place during a counter-attack led by Republican Guard armored forces against the Task Force 2-7 Infantry (Mechanized) Tactical Operations Center (TOC). Other non-armored vehicles (Humvees and heavy trucks), possibly fell to tank main guns shelling the compound area at this instance, combined with mortar fire and light artillery. The assault was fenced off mostly by infantry armed with Javelin missiles, which destroyed a number of T-72s. [Another report about the Republican Guard ambush can be found on:
* [http://www.projo.com/news/michaelcorkery/projo_20030405_airport5.c1955.html#prof projo.com]
] In preparation for the final US push, the Iraqi T-72s were the preferred target for Apache helicopters and A-10s, in an attempt to diminish the combat power of "Medina". However, one of these US air operations, executed by Apaches from the 11th Aviation Regiment became a fiasco near Karbala, on March 25. The Republican Guard T-72s, APCs, ZSU-23-4 antiaircraft systems, along with infantrymen armed with AK-47s, aware of the American Army plans, surprised the 34 helicopters with a barrage of PKM, NSV, 23 mm, and perhaps 125 mm tank fire. [The latter is a not improbable scenario, since one air loss in the Gulf War (actually an OH-58 Kiowa, although the cited source indicates an Apache) was allegedly scored by tank fire on February 25:
* [http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/declassimages/army/19960919/091896_apr96_decls1_0113.html#prof www.gulflink.osd.mil]
] The route of the raiders was uncovered by the Republican Guard long before they could reach their intended objective. [From Scarborough article (see note #42 for general reference)

*Quote: "Alerted to the Apache's arrival by lookouts along the route, Iraqi civilians armed with AK-47s and Medina soldiers fired guns and Russian-made artillery barrage-style in crude but effective self-defense."] This operation also shows that the US Central Command was over confident about the capabilities of the Apache's armor to defeat antiaircraft fire. [From the article [http://www.slate.com/id/2081906#prof Kaplan, Fred: "Chop the Chopper; The Army's Apache attack helicopter had a bad war"; www.Slate.com] ]

The large aerial strike was repulsed with one Apache brought down (according to Iraqi government sources, shot at by a peasant firing an AK-47, although it was likely hit by 23 mm rounds), and all the remainder damaged, some of them taken temporary out of service and at least two being written off. Only seven were still operational after the failed raid. The two crew members of the downed aircraft were captured by the Iraqis. This left the US Regiment grounded for the rest of the invasion and, in some sense, it was the last successful battle of the T-72 Lion of Babylon. ["Apache Operation a lesson in defeat", By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times, April 22, 2003.]

The last operational "Asad Babil"s were destroyed by the successive waves of American armored incursions on the Iraqi capital [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iraq/2003/iraq-030405-rfel-164725.htm#prof GlobalSecurity.org] ] or abandoned by their crews after the fall of Baghdad, several of them without firing a single shot. Contrary to what occurred in the Gulf War, when US forces crushed dozens of armored brigades and forced the rest to withdraw from Kuwait, the Iraqi Army of 2003 collapsed by itself after it became clear that the central power was no more. The derelict tanks were later scrapped by US Army disposal teams or shipped to the USA for targeting practice. Apparently, a handful of them that were still on production in the Taji complex or hidden elsewhere were later incorporated to the new Iraqi Army for training (see Aftermath section).

But the Lions and their now dismantled factory would continue to haunt American forces in Iraq under the guise of IEDs, many of them made from 125 mm HEAT shells [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jul2005/20050709_2017.html#prof defenselink.mil]
*Quote: "In two separate incidents, also on July 8 in east Baghdad, Iraqis turned the tables and took a deliberate stand against terror." "In the first incident, a local citizen observed terrorists placing a roadside bomb and provided a tip to the Iraqi police. The police responded, cordoned off the area and coordinated with the 720th Military Police Battalion and a coalition explosive ordnance disposal team to disable the bomb. EOD safely destroyed the bomb with a controlled detonation." "The improvised explosive device consisted of a 125 mm tank round with a remote-controlled device."

*The following link describes how two trucks were destroyed by a single 125 mm shell on April 25 2006: [http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/showthread.php?t=33627#prof leatherneck.com] ] or even sabot rounds and other ammunitions once produced in the Taji plant, and now used, often with deadly effects, by the Iraqi Insurgency. [During the siege of Fallujah, on April 6 2004, a large group of Iraqi insurgents set up an ambush from the dismantled hulks of T-72 Lions, gathered in an area known as the "tank's Graveyard", near Ar-Ramadi. They killed two marines and destroyed an unarmored Humvee before being scared off by a team of snipers (West, pp. 95-100).]

Conclusions

From a wide point of view, the Iraqi T-72 was affected by the same lack of maneuvering skills which pervaded the Iraqi Army commander's minds since the war with Iran. [See the following page:
*http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/primer-iraq.cfm
] The "Asad Babil"s, like any other tank in the Iraqi inventory, were mainly employed as artillery pillboxes, rather than high-mobility combat vehicles. The Iraqi generals wasted numerous HEAT and even sabot tank shells in indirect fire missions from reveted positions, [One of the first skirmishes of the Battle of Khafji shows an example of this, with T-62s firing a barrage of 115 mm KE rounds from about 2000 yards on a Marine Observation Post (OP-4), a typical castle-like stronghold in the desert, causing some damage but without any tactical consequences, since no attempt to flank the position was made by the Iraqis (Morris, p. 74).] achieving nothing against coalition troops before being located and wiped out by helicopter or A-10 air strikes. This kind of tactics usually resulted in heavy barrel wear. [Zaloga & Sarson, "T-72..." p.38] As we have seen above, the ambushes were also mostly ineffective, and those tanks met their fate at the hands of Allied MBTs or IFVs. However, the destruction of the "Tawakalna" Division (the bulk of it Lion of Babylon tanks) by the US 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions cost the Allied forces too much time, and consequently they were unable to destroy other Republican Guard divisions before ordered to cease-fire. Many authors maintain that the very existence of Saddam's regime for the next 12 years can be attribute to this fact, since the surviving Republican Guard units crushed the Shiite and Kurd risings right after the Iraqi defeat in "Desert Storm". [Read Ricks: "Fiasco", page 6, and the following USAF article:
*http://www.afa.org/magazine/march2003/0303escape.asp
]

Armor

The Lion's primary armor was the same as the basic Soviet T-72 for export (T-72M), without any composite armor improvement, which made this tank an easy prey for any Western counterpart of latest generation. Their sides had just 60 mm protection, the turret side 300 mm standard and flat 45 mm at rear (later reinforced by the Iraqis). [Data retrieved from Isby, "Weapons and tactics"...] Nevertheless, the reinforced armor plate present both at the turret and the front upper hull seems to have worked relatively well against some shaped-charge ordnance, like the TOWs and Hellfire missiles. Indeed, there are reports of Iraqi T-72s surviving near-misses from these weapons, although becoming a mobility kill in most of these cases. The missiles could have been deflected by the electro-optical countermeasures of the tank. [ [http://www.3ad.com/history/gulf.war/armor.mag/two.scouts.htm#prof www.3ad.com] ] [Atkinson, p. 444, cites another case of a TOW bouncing off a T-72 and hitting the turret of another tank] [Brig. Gen. Scales hints that some Iraqi T-72s survived Hellfire’s strikes before the 1-37TF assault (Op. Cit., p.268).] [Quote: "To ensure complete catastrophic destruction of the second tank, Private First Class Davis fired a second Javelin, causing even more explosions on the second tank. At this point the third T-72 began frantically trying to determine the source and direction of incoming fire. Private First Class Jiminez engaged the now moving third tank. His round missed but impacted close enough to damage the tank. The tank limped away to meet its fate elsewhere." From:
* [http://www.phoenix158.org/iraq/AAR%20draft%20from%202-7%20INF%203D%20ID.cfm#prof Dispatches From Iraq]
]

Furthermore, there is evidence of a direct hit defeated in the already mentioned combat of Mahmoudiyah, also in 2003, when a 120 mm HEAT round from an Abrams impacted on the front of an "Asad Babil" turret at point blank without any significant consequences. [Conroy & Martz, p. 9]

It may be that some of these tanks featured explosive reactive armor, obtained from spare parts of the Polish T-72M1. A US Commanderin the field suggested that during their last stand for Baghdad, five Iraqi T-72s seemed to be equipped with reactives. [ [http://www.highbeam.com/library/docFree.asp?DOCID=1G1:141213121#prof "Infantry" magazine, 1 September 2004] ] An improvised innovation that may have also work in these circumstances was introduced at the Taji complex, according to a Russian web site. [http://btvt.narod.ru/2/iraqarmy2.htm/
*Russian quote:"В 1988-89 гг. эти танки прошли модернизацию по усилению защищенности верхних лобовых деталей корпуса танка. Это достигалось путем приварки дополнительного броневого листа толщиной 30 мм с воздушной прослойкой, такого же размера. Эта мера была предпринята иракцами после изучения возможностей защиты танков от поражения различными боеприпасами 120-мм английской нарезной танковой пушки L 11А5, установленной на иранских танках "Чифтен", захваченных Ираком в ходе войны."
]

This source reports that an additional armor plate with a thickness of 30 mm was welded on the front areas of the hull and turret, leaving an air layer gap matching the size of the armor, so that the power of a HEAT jet could be dissipated in the hollow space. This technique follows the principle of spaced armor. The Iraqi engineers tested this reinforcement against 120 mm Chieftain tank rifled guns in 1989, apparently with some success. A FAS document claims that Russian designers took note of this Iraqi employment of layer armor for their T-90 MBT. [ [http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/docs/5T90.pdf#prof PDF] :
*Literal transcription: "So far, no specific additional information about the T-90’s front-slope or glacis armor configuration is available. The most likely design would be a much improved version of the 5-layer armor that protected the hulls of Iraqi T-72s in Desert Storm".
]

The same plating armor reinforcement seems to have been welded on the Type 69-QM front glacis.

There are also at least two examples of 25 mm armor-piercing cannon fire from Bradleys IFVs ricocheting harmlessly when fired at the Iraqi tank in Desert Storm. [Scales, p. 296.] But in the end it was no match for the 120 mm DU tank ammunition, the so called "silver bullet".

Aftermath

Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the new Iraqi Government acquired dozens of refitted T-72-M from Hungary, [ [http://www.defendamerica.mil/articles/nov2005/a111405tj1.html#prof defenderamerica.mil]
*Quote: "Many of the division's soldiers drove T-72 tanks in the old Iraqi Army, so they are familiar with operating and maintaining them, leaders said. A handful of the tanks remain at Taji and are used for training purposes".
] in order to equip an armored brigade. Interestingly, the headquarters of this new Iraqi Army unit is located in Taji, so there may still remain some maintenance facilities for MBTs. The website cited in the link also says that some surviving Lions are used to instruct the new recruits. The training and experience of the old Iraqi Army officers and crews with the "Asad Babil" was also one of the reasons behind the choice of the Soviet-designed tank by the authorities.

Footnotes

Other references

* Scales, Brigadier General Robert H. Jr: "Certain Victory." Brassey's, 1994.
* Atkinson, Rick: "Crusade, The untold story of the Persian Gulf War." Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.
* Rostker, Bernard: "Environmental Exposure Report:Depleted Uranium in the Gulf". DoD Publication, 1998.
* United States General Accounting Office:"Operation Desert Storm: Early Performance Assessment of Bradley and Abrams." Washington, January 1992.
* Dan Fahey, "Collateral Da

* Forty, George: "Tank Action. From the Great War to the Gulf", Allan Sutton Publishing Ltd., Phoenix Mill, 1995.
* "Camp Colt To Desert Storm": George F. Hofmann, Donn A. Starry, Editors. 1999.
* Conroy, Jason & Martz, Ron: "Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle To Baghdad." Potomac Books, 2005.
* Zaloga Steven J., & Sarson, Peter: "T-72 Main Battle Tank 1974-1993". Osprey Military, New Vanguard. Reed International Books Ltd, 1993.
* Zaloga Steven J., & Sarson, Peter: "M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank 1982-1992". Osprey Military, New Vanguard. Reed International Books Ltd, 1993.
* Isby, David: "Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army." Salamander Books, London, 1988.
* "Dragon's Roar: 1-37 Armor in the Battle of 73 Easting." Armor, May-June 1992, VOL CI, #3.
* "Apache Operation a lesson in defeat", By Rowan Scarborough, The Washington Times, April 22, 2003.
* Jane's Armor & Artillery, Jane's Information Group, Surrey, 1988-89 Ed.
* West, Francis J. Bing: "No true glory. A frontline account of the battle for Fallujah". Bantam books, 2006.
* Morris, David: "Storm on the Horizon". Presidio Press, 2004.
* Ricks, Thomas E.: "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq". Penguin books, 2006.
* Bin, Alberto, Hill, Richard and Jones, Archer: "Desert Storm, The Forgotten War". Greenwood Pub Group,1998.

Further reading

* [http://www.kentimmerman.com/news/tdl16.htm#prof The Death Lobby: How the West armed Iraq]
* [http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1998/iraq/equipment/#prof Inspecting Iraq-Iraq military] , Jane's Information Group


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